Egypt’s leading opposition group urged its followers Wednesday to vote against an Islamist-inspired draft constitution, ending weeks of indecision over whether antigovernment forces should boycott the referendum, which begins this weekend and pits secularists against the Muslim Brotherhood. The move by the National Salvation Front is a crucial test of its popularity against President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist supporters. The opposition movement has revived the country’s revolutionary fervor but has been marred by division and poor organization, which are expected to be exploited by the Brotherhood’s vast grass-roots networks.
The National Salvation Front “decided to call upon the people to go to the polling stations and reject the draft by saying no,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate and one of the group’s leaders. “The people will rally at the polls and have a chance to topple the constitution.”
Perhaps sensing a possible setback, he added, “The referendum is not the end of our journey.”
The group said its decision was contingent upon judicial oversight, international monitors and increased security at polling stations during the referendum.
It is unclear whether those demands can be met. Many judges, angry about a recent decree by Morsi that weakened the courts, have refused to supervise the balloting. That forced the Islamist leader to announce that voting would be held over two successive Saturdays so participating judges can be rotated around the country.